Over the last couple of decades the best electronic drum sets (which you may also hear being called 'e-kits' or 'electric drums') have advanced ever closer to the experience of playing an acoustic drum set. From the physical hardware – including adjustable rack systems and responsive drum and cymbal pads made of rubber or mesh – to the drum trigger technology that ensures a sound plays when you strike a pad, electronic drum sets just keep getting better. At the same time, they've also never represented greater value for money.
Regardless of your needs, there’s an electronic kit to suit every type of player. Many drummers want to practice drums at home, but are restricted by how much noise they can make, meaning an acoustic kit is a total no-go zone. Then there are pro drummers who need reliability, performance and control over their sound, both live and in the studio. The best electronic drum sets are capable of delivering everything from headphones-based quiet practice alongside excellent tuition tools, right up to effortless recording functionality and so much more.
The electronic drum world has seen a high number of new kits entering the market over the last couple of years. But with an ever-growing list of options, it can be tough knowing where to start. If you’re here to learn more before you decide which is the best electronic drum set for you, click the 'buying advice' link in the navigation bar at the top of your screen. Here you can read more about what e-kits are capable of and get useful guidance from our experts. If you'd rather get straight down to business and find the best electronic drum set for you, then keep scrolling!
We've listed the kits in price order to make it easier for you to find the right one for your budget and there's a full review linked out at the bottom of each kit entry if you want to know more, too. Our handy price widgets also display the latest and best prices from trusted retailers.
Best electronic drum sets: Our top picks
With so much choice it can be difficult to pin down the best electronic drum set to match your needs and budget, but these four choices are an ideal place to start.
If you’re just starting out, you can do no wrong with an Alesis electronic drum set, especially the excellent Nitro Mesh. As the name suggests, you get mesh drum pads and a module loaded with 385 sounds, plus metronome, backing tracks and coaching tools, arming you with everything you need to get started for not a lot of money. If you have a slightly bigger budget, the TD-1DMK is Roland's cheapest all-mesh kit and will stick by you further into your playing journey.
The Roland TD-50KVX is really the pinnacle of e-drums technology right now. This percussive powerhouse is designed to help you unlock all your drumming potential with dynamic, expressive feedback. From the studio to the stage, the tech under the hood of this beast is more than capable for any musical project you have in your head.
Yamaha's new DTX6 range is also worthy of a mention here, particularly the Yamaha DTX6K3-X model. The Textured Silicon pads offer a nice alternative to mesh and the module offers some of the best sounds we've heard on a mid-level e-kit in a long time. You can also add cool effects and enhance your sound on the fly, using the faders on the front of the module.
Best electronic drum sets: Product guide
The Alesis Nitro Mesh electronic drum kit includes an 8" dual-zone mesh snare, three 8” single-zone mesh toms, a 10” dual-zone crash (choke-able), two additional single-zoned cymbals (one for hi-hat and ride cymbal), hi-hat controller pedal and a complete four-post drum rack.
Also included is the Alesis DMPAD kick pad featuring a robust pressed steel housing, anti-creep spikes and a single-zone surface. Partnering the kick is a chunky kick pedal together with essential assembly key, drumsticks and manuals.
Only a few strikes of the quality mesh pads reveal the kit’s acoustic drum-esque properties, particularly with rim-shots and cross stick. The same goes for the crash, which is capable of impressive chokes.
The Alesis Nitro Mesh includes an 8" dual-zone mesh snare, three 8” single-zone mesh toms, a 10” dual-zone crash (chokeable), two additional single-zoned cymbals (one for hi-hat and ride cymbal), hi-hat controller pedal and a complete four-post drum rack. competitive price tag and makes an excellent value first drum kit or a great cheap practice kit.
Read the full Alesis Nitro Mesh review
- The best Alesis Nitro Mesh kit deals online right now
Yamaha’s DTX402 series is aimed squarely at entry-level drummers. There are three kits in the 402 line-up, but the 402K is the best for tight budgets and offers plenty to help first-timers get started.
The kit features a sturdy rack plus quiet, natural-feeling rubber drums and cymbals. The DTX402 module is packed with 287 expressive drum and percussion sounds, 128 keyboard sounds, 10 customisable kits and nine reverb types. In addition, aspiring players will find multi-genre playalongs, recording functionality and ten training tools to boost timing, speed and expression.
Impressively, the DTX402 is also compatible with Yamaha’s free DTX402 Touch app (iOS/Android), which enables deeper kit customisation, additional playing challenges and rewards as players improve.
While we still love this kit and you can't go wrong if you're in the market for a budget kit with great sounds, the 402 series is feeling a little tired now, particularly since the launch of the new DTX6 series. We're hoping to see an overhaul of the range in the near future.
You can explore more Yamaha options in our guide to the best Yamaha electronic drum kits.
This compact electronic kit packs an 8" dual-zone mesh snare, three 6" single-zone mesh toms , three choke-able 10" dual-zone cymbals (hi-hat, ride and crash), a hi-hat controller pedal and a bass drum pad. The neat four-post rack is built around a narrow H-shaped central section and houses an in-built rubber bass drum trigger that’s wide enough to accommodate a double pedal. As a result, it's one of the best electronic drum sets for smaller spaces.
The TD-1 module is packed with decent backing tracks, practice aids and some challenging coaching functions. Despite missing some bells and whistles, the module’s simplicity makes it incredibly user friendly, so it’s particularly well suited to new to intermediate drummers. The 15 kit presets on-board are varied in style and provide a usable selection of sounds that cater for many styles of music. The two-ply mesh heads respond well and there’s a pleasing dynamic range afforded by the module.
Read the full Roland TD-1DMK review
- Explore more of the best Roland electronic drum kits
The Command Mesh follows a standard five-piece-plus-cymbals kit configuration, including an 8" bass drum which also uses a mesh head. The snare and toms are all dual-zone, meaning that separate sounds can be assigned to the head and rim of each pad.
Other top features include a USB MIDI connection, enabling you to easily record MIDI data into a computer – plus standard MIDI in/out sockets, 3.5mm headphone and auxiliary input jacks, expansion inputs for an additional tom and cymbal. To the side of the module sits another USB socket, allowing you to connect a memory stick containing your own jam tracks or samples. The sounds within the sleek-looking Command module follow the overall feel of the rest of the kit: it’s safe, with everything you need.
Acoustic kits range from studio all-rounders to samples of brushed jazz kits, taking in rock, funk and ‘power’ style sounds along the way. Alesis has done a fine job with the Command Mesh. The mesh heads alone make it a worthy contender, while the range of sounds on offer followed by the sample playback option make this an electronic drum set that will take a long time to outgrow.
Read the full Alesis Command Mesh review
The Roland TD-07DMK is the most affordable electronic drum set in the newly-expanded TD-07 range. If you like the deep editing features and Bluetooth functionality of the TD-07 module, but don’t really need any of the other physical frills the TD-07KV, KX and KVX e-kits offer, then this could be the best electronic drum set for you.
Yes, it’s a more budget option, but don’t let that fool you. The TD-07DMK proves that Roland’s main concerns are playability and feel - with the double ply mesh heads providing a real-feel playing experience. Not only do the mesh heads near enough replicate real drum heads, but they’re also tensionable with a drum key, meaning you can personalise the feel and stick response to your liking.
The DMK is a compact, powerful e-drum kit perfect for beginner or intermediate players. With smaller CY-5 cymbal pads, and a bass drum pad (capable of taking a double bass drum pedal) attached to the right hand central leg of the frame, the TD-07DMK won’t get in the way when set up in your bedroom or studio space. It will fold down to fit into small spaces, too.
While keeping the footprint small, Roland hasn’t scrimped on the DMK’s capabilities - with brilliant learning tools such as the Coach mode onboard the module. The Coach tests and scores your timing and accuracy, with exercises ranging from easy to hard, and for the more old-school among us there’s a rock solid in-built metronome to keep your playing in check.
With Roland's patented, tuneable, dual-ply heads across the snare and toms, plus a standalone kick drum pad, the TD-07KV is one of the most affordable, no-compromise setups in the V-Drums family.
Couple the feel of the mesh pads with the expertly-captured sounds and you have the ideal platform for getting started, on a kit that will last you many years to come.
On-board Bluetooth allows you to jam with your music library wire-free, and the built-in coaching modes will help keep your timing in-check. Finally, there's a USB MIDI/audio interface which will allow you to connect to your computer for recording.
Read the full Roland TD-07KV review
Yamaha's latest electronic kit certainly ticks the boxes if you're after a setup that delivers great sounds and plenty of editing options. Featuring Yamaha's TCS silicone pads in the snare and tom positions, one of the most comfortable bass drum towers we've tried and an acoustic-style hi-hat (stand included), there's a lot to be excited about.
The DTX Pro module allows for a lot of processing, and thanks to the Kit Modifier controls on the top panel, you can apply and manipulate your sounds in real time, plus, you can import your own samples and map them to the pads too. We do feel that the kit would benefit from a software editor to make this process easier, so until then you'll need to make a good investment of time to really get to grips with the internal menu system.
The economical design of the pads means that they do feel small - we’d like a larger snare and floor tom pad - but overall the DTX6K3-X has all the hallmarks of a quality e-drum set and is one of our top choices.
Read the full Yamaha DTX6K3-X review
The big message with Roland's mid-range TD-17 line, which features new pad designs, sounds derived from the flagship Roland TD-50 module, as well as Bluetooth alongside the ability to import your own samples, is that electronic drums shouldn’t feel like a compromise to those who are learning and improving on an electronic kit. Hence Roland’s ‘Become a better drummer, faster’ tagline.
High quality and highly configurable sounds aside, the main draws here are Bluetooth, and the ability to import your own samples. You can throw whatever .wav sample you have onto an SD card and into the pool of 100 user slots.
Then comes the Bluetooth. Many drum companies have dabbled with their own systems, but this solution makes the TD-17 one of the best electronic drum sets around. Pairing your device and starting to play along to tracks is fast, and rock solid. The Roland TD-17K's sound quality, features and playability set a new benchmark for those looking for V-Drums they aren’t going to outgrow in a hurry.
Read the full Roland TD-17KVX review
The 11-piece Strike Pro wears Alesis’ flagship crown. All drum are dual-zone (except for the single-zone bass drum), as are the choke-able crashes. The large ride cymbal has three zones which offer separate control over the bell, bow and edge. The sleek looking module features a large 4.3” colour display and physical mixer. The unit also features an on-board effects engine and in-built sampling capability which allows the real-time recording and editing of audio via the aux input.
Most impressive is that the Strike Module accepts user samples not only for looping or backing purposes but for actual drum kit creation. The inbuilt samples are of a good quality and the sheer number of kit presets take a long while to explore.
The Strike Pro may not be a perfect electronic drum set, but it does represent an unquestionably impressive amount of gear for the money. However, be prepared for a lot of tinkering to customise your setup.
If your budget can stretch, the Strike Pro SE (or Special Edition) comes complete with a full-sized 20" kick drum for a more realistic look and feel. The upgraded drum will cost you a few hundred dollars more.
Read the full Alesis Strike Pro review
Roland's TD-27 range kit sits in the middle of Roland’s electronic drum set range. At the time of writing, the TD-27 forms the backbone of Roland’s VAD series kits, as well as the TD-27KV we’re looking at here. The sounds are derived from the flagship TD-50, and includes a number of technologies designed to make playing your e kit as close to the real thing as possible.
Prismatic Sound Modelling builds on the kit’s raw samples – captured in world-class studios, while PureAcoustic Ambience Technology places your virtual kit inside realistic sounding spaces, complete with room and overhead mic simulation.
As a complete kit, it comes packing larger pads (10” toms, 12/13” crash cymbals and hi-hats) with the big news being the inclusion of a 14”x4.3” stainless steel PD-140DS digital snare, and 18” CY-18DR ride cymbal for greater response, physical movement and realism.
The TD-27KV is a sturdy investment, but one that will get you into the realm of next-level triggering and should last you years.
Read the full Roland TD-27KV review
The focus with ATV’s aDrums is strongly on delivering top-quality acoustic drum (and some percussion) sounds, with a familiar, responsive controller to play them from, presented from a design standpoint that looks beautiful. In short, this electronic drum set aims to be as close in sound, feel and looks to an acoustic kit as is possible. The wind may have been taken out of ATV's sails a little with the launch of Roland's VAD series (keep reading for more on that), but if you're looking for an alternative brand to Roland, Alesis or Yamaha, then ATV is worth your time.
Each drum shell is a six-ply birch construction, fitted with mesh heads top and bottom, and coated with a black lacquer finish. The snare features three playable zones (head, rim and sidestick) and includes a wooden wedge to aid with the latter, while the toms are dual-zone (head and rim) leaving the bass drum as a single-zone drum.
The smaller diameter of each drum means that achieving a comfortable placement is quick and it feels like you’re sitting at a real kit. Meanwhile, the aD-H14 is possibly the best electronic hi-hat we’ve played. Combine the aD5 module with ATV’s pads and shells and you get a very realistic experience.
Read the full ATV aDrums Artist Standard review
The most noteworthy aspects of the TD-50 are the digital ride and snare which now plug into the kit's module via USB. The ride not only feels more like a real cymbal thanks to its size and weight, but is also designed to respond more realistically due to multiple sensors on its surface. The snare uses the same digital technology to perform much more realistically than any previous model.
The module itself plays host to 50 kit presets which utilise Roland's brand new Prismatic Sound Modelling engine. It’s also possible to import your own samples via SD card. These can be allocated as a primary sample, triggered by a chosen source, or blended with other samples using the new ‘sub-instrument’ menu.
Other noteworthy features include balanced left and right XLR master outputs, a new routing engine which allows the kit mixer to control only the headphone monitor mix without altering the front-of-house mix and 10-channel USB audio that allows multi-track recording straight to a computer.
For this kind of money one would expect some pretty groundbreaking stuff. Thankfully, Roland hasn't failed to deliver with the endlessly customisable TD-50.
New to the TD-50 range is the TD-50KV2 and TD-50K2 kits, which take advantage of the new TD-50X module, which delivers digital ride, snare and now hi-hats. We'll be getting hands on with those soon.
Read the full Roland TD-50KVX review
Roland’s VAD (V-Drums Acoustic Design) electronic kits are works of art. We’d expect nothing less from a Roland flagship, which takes cues from companies such as Pearl, Alesis and ATV by housing electronic pads in full drum shells.
Featuring digital hi-hat, ride and snare pads, the 706 offers the kind of playability and natural feeling that Roland has made its name upon. As the most important elements of any drum kit, with these digital iterations you can expect to experience some impressively nuanced, detailed and great sounding drum tones - all powered by the formidable TD-50X module.
Amongst the myriad sound-editing options, building a ‘signature’ sound has never been more thorough - with tuning and muffling adjustments available at the push of a button, as well as drumhead types, cymbal diameter, cymbal thickness, shell sizes and shell depths all up for customisation. This massive library of drum sounds was developed and recorded alongside top drummers and recording engineers, meaning the tonal recall of this e drum kit is remarkable.
Of course with Roland, it’s not all about the sounds and playability. It’s got to be aesthetically pleasing - and the VAD706 definitely steps up to the plate. Drum shells adorned with Gloss Natural, Gloss Ebony, Pearl White or Gloss Cherry prove you’ll always turn heads, whether in the studio or on stage. Yeah, it’s pricey - but as a flagship model, we feel like that’s kind of the whole point. This isn’t an example of great value for money, but an example of what the future of electronic drums looks like.
Read the full Roland VAD706 review
Best electronic drum sets: Buying advice
Here you'll find out everything there is to know about electronic drum sets to help you choose the right one for you. We've split our advice into useful sections. Just hit the links below to head straight to the section you want to read.
- What to look for in an e-kit
- Do you need an e-kit?
- Are electronic drum sets quiet?
- How compact are electronic drum sets?
- Are e-kits easy to set up?
- How does an electronic drum set work?
- Drum modules explained
- Do you need headphones or a speaker?
- The difference between rubber and mesh pads
- Recording with an e-kit
- Playing live with an e-kit
- Where to buy an electronic drum kit
- Buying second hand
What to look for in an electronic drum set
When exploring the best electronic drum set for you, it depends entirely on what features you need from an e-kit and where you are in your drumming journey.
Beginner drummers should be looking to spend no more than about $/£700 on their first e drum set. Most electronic kits in this price range will have the important basic features covered - a user-friendly module loaded with usable sounds, learning tools, durable build, adjustable rack system - with the odd extra feature thrown in for good measure. Most e-kits come with mesh heads (or a worthy equivalent in the case of Yamaha’s TCS silicone pads), meaning you’ll have a fairly realistic feeling e-kit to cut your teeth on.
We’d personally recommend getting something with a ‘proper’ bass drum pedal and pad as opposed to a standalone controller pedal, such as the Alesis Nitro Mesh or the Roland TD-1DMK. This helps to improve your bass drum foot technique and makes swapping from electronic to acoustic drums much easier.
In this price bracket, most kits will have everything you need to start playing in the box, including drumsticks, pedals and the drums themselves. As with any electronic kit, you’ll need to buy a drum throne and a pair of headphones for drummers, as they’re considered more ‘personal preference’ items. Towards the top end of this price bracket you’ll potentially also need to factor in the cost of a bass drum pedal and some drumsticks.
Intermediate drummers will want to spend between $/£700-$/£1,500 on their electronic drum set. At this price point, you’ll start to get some really impressive features added in. We’re talking dual-zone pads which enable you to get multiple sounds/tones from a single pad, more sensitive and sophisticated triggering, better drum sounds and the ability to load your own sounds into the module - the list goes on. It’s also likely to be stronger and more durable, and will possibly come with an extra drum or cymbal pad (or both).
Some intermediate e kits will integrate traditional drum hardware into their setups too - most commonly a hi-hat stand, with an electronic pad mounted to it. This all adds to the feeling of realism, but will mean that your e-kit isn’t as compact as other self-contained options. In our opinion this is a worthwhile compromise. Having an e-kit that feels like an acoustic drum kit is particularly beneficial if you play both types of kit regularly.
Professional drummers can expect to be spending anywhere from $/£1,500 to $/£7,500 on an electronic drum set. Like the other price categories, it all comes down to the features you need and what you’re using the kit for. If you’re touring the world with an e-kit, then a Roland TD-50KVX or VAD706 would make excellent choices, but if you’re playing small venues, teaching drums or doing a lot of recording work, then these kits would be overkill.
The features that you can expect from kits in this price bracket are damn impressive. High-tech upgrades like digital triggering on certain drums and cymbals can upgrade your playing experience and the sound you produce infinitely. The modules are another key point of progression when you get to spending the big bucks, with super high fidelity drum sounds and loads of effects and ambience customisation coming as standard. On certain e-kits, such as the ATV aDrums Artist Standard, the kit customisation possibilities are nigh-on endless, providing you with a really authentic sounding and feeling kit.
At this price point, you can also start exploring the world of e-kits that come complete with proper wooden drum shells (like Roland’s VAD series). These not only look fantastic, but again authenticate your playing experience. They’re as close to real drums as you’ll get - perfect if that’s your thing.
Do you need an electronic drum set?
If you’re unsure as to whether you need an electronic kit, it’s important to ask yourself the following questions:
Are you in a position where you can make as much noise as you like?
If you live out in the sticks with nobody around you, or have a soundproofed space where making noise is not an issue, then we’d recommend you look at getting yourself an acoustic drum set over an electronic one. Playing the drums is an experience which can be hard to replicate at low volumes, so if you can, we’d recommend making some noise with an acoustic drum set.
If you’ve got close neighbours, or people around you who won’t appreciate the noise of an acoustic drum set, then an electronic drum set is definitely the way to go. They’re more convenient and compact than an acoustic drum set, come preloaded with hundreds of cool sounds for you to enjoy, are easier to transport and always sound good.
Do you need a kit for home practice?
If your electronic drum set is just for practice, then we’d say go for it. Trusting you can’t just make as much noise as you want with an acoustic set, an e-kit is as close to the real thing as you’ll get while keeping your neighbours or family happy. If it means you can put in more hours behind the kit, then we’re all for it.
Do you want to record drums?
Electronic drum sets have become increasingly powerful and convenient tools for recording drum parts for musical projects and band demos. If this is your plan, then the plug and play nature of an e-kit will be massively appealing and will make life super easy. We’d always advocate recording acoustic drums in a proper studio with microphones, but this isn’t realistic or convenient for a lot of people, so e-kits are the next best thing.
Will you be gigging with it?
If you’re going to be gigging with your drum set, again, we’d say that an acoustic drum set is best. A lot of our first gigs were in halls, garages, pubs or small venues - usually with small PA speakers, incapable of handling a full electronic kit going through them. For this reason, an acoustic drum set is preferable - unless you’re playing somewhere with reasonable sound equipment.
Another pro for the acoustic drum set is how it feels in the room. When playing (or watching) a live show, you want to feel the music as well as hear it - and an acoustic drum set has a much greater presence, meaning that your live shows will probably benefit from using an acoustic kit.
Gigging with an electronic drum set would be best for someone who wants to change drum sounds often, or someone that uses a lot of pre-recorded samples. There are also certain styles of music such as hip hop, drum ‘n’ bass and jungle, that benefit from electronic drum sounds and samples - and for these styles, an electronic drum set would be ideal.
What is the best electronic drum set to buy in 2021?
What is the best electronic drum set to buy in 2021?
The best electronic drum set for you depends on a number of factors, including your playing level, your budget and what you'll be using the kit for. For example, if you only need an e-kit for quiet home practice you may not need one that enables you to import audio samples. Or if you're just starting out, you may want an electronic drum set that prioritises multiple learning tools over myriad sounds and backing tracks.
Whatever your needs, these three kits are a great place to start:
Best electronic drum set for value
The Alesis Nitro Mesh is the ideal starter kit. Everything comes in one box and is easy to set up. It's lightweight too, so packing it away or moving it between rooms is no problem. The all-mesh drum pads go some way to giving you a similar experience to playing an acoustic kit and the module features a satisfying range of sounds that should keep most drummers well occupied.
Best electronic drum set for established drummers
If you're beyond the beginner stage and you want a kit that offers better sounds, sturdier hardware and a generally more advanced playing experience then the Yamaha DTX6K3-X is a top choice. We love the stock sounds, and the fact you can enhance and manipulate them straight from the front of the module. The Silicone pads feel great too, while the rack feels completely unshakeable.
Best electronic drum set for pro drummers
Roland has long held the crown for making the best electronic drum sets when money is no object. The VAD706 sits right at the top of the tree in the Roland line-up, and for good reason. Not only do the full acoustic drum shells give the kit that traditional look that means it wouldn't look out of place on stage or in a top-end studio, but the TD-50X module is currently unbeatable when it comes to the technology on-board. Electronic drum set playing has never felt more natural or nuanced, and dialling in your sound has never been easier.
Are electronic drum sets quiet?
While electronic kits are drastically quieter than acoustic drums, they’re not completely silent - the sound of sticks or your bass drum beater hitting the pads will create audible noise and vibrations through floors/walls. As such, there are a few things to consider when setting up your electronic drum set, and we’ve also compiled a guide to ways to make your electronic drum set quieter.
Think about where in your house the kit is going, first of all. If you live in a terraced or semi-detached house, then keeping your kit away from adjoining walls is a must. Place your kit either in a central room, or against an internal wall - that way the sound is more likely to be contained.
Avoid having your e-kit upstairs too, if possible. Us drummers tend to put a lot of force into a bass drum hit or hi-hat pedal stomp when we’re getting into a song, and that sound will quickly annoy people on the floor below you. For those living in flats or apartments, it’s not the end of the world though - as there are products available to help isolate the sound, such as the Roland NE10 Noise Eater and Thomann’s Drum Noise Elimination Podium. If you’re on a budget, having a rug under the kit will help some of that extra noise to dissipate.
How compact are electronic drum sets?
Electronic drum sets are smaller than acoustic drum kits and pack down more easily thanks to their foldable racks. They do still have a reasonable footprint when set up properly. Although the drum pads on an e-kit are typically smaller than the drums and cymbals of an acoustic kit, the actual positioning is exactly the same. It’s important that your setups (if you play both electronic and acoustic drums) are as similar as they can be - as this makes transitioning between the two as easier.
Most of the time, the more you spend, the bigger your e-kit will be. The drum pads on more expensive e-kits are usually a more realistic size, which means they’ll be bigger than the pads on cheaper e-kits. A lot of higher-end kits come with extra drums or cymbals too, the rack will be chunkier and the module larger. Worth considering when looking at buying one of the best electronic drum sets and space is a potential issue.
Are electronic drum sets easy to set up?
Setting up an electronic drum set, like most flat-packed items, can present a bit of a challenge. The most important points for us, trusting that you’ve already made some space for your e-kit, are to use the instructions provided, and to take your time to make sure you’ve got all the parts before you start building. Putting together your new kit doesn’t have to be a dreaded task, if you do it properly. We’ve put together an in-depth guide showing you how to set up an electronic drum set efficiently, quickly and properly - and hopefully without too much swearing. In a nutshell we’d recommend building your rack first, then positioning drum pads, pedals and cymbal pads (in that order), before mounting your module to the rack and connecting your pads to it via the supplied cables.
How does an electronic drum set work?
Simply put, every drum and cymbal on an electronic drum set contains sensors - usually referred to as ‘triggers’ - which detect vibrations and the velocity of those vibrations. Once a vibration is detected, an electrical signal is sent to the module. The module then triggers the appropriate drum or cymbal sound for that pad at the correct volume, and it plays back through your headphones or speaker. All in the blink of an eye. Smart, huh?
More expensive electronic kits feature advanced triggers with multiple zones in order to produce different sounds - differentiating between hits on the edge, bow and bell of the ride cymbal, for example. Some triggers also feature multiple pickups, enabling more dynamic and realistic triggering of sounds.
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What you need to know about drum modules
At the entry level your drum module (sometimes referred to as the ‘brain') will offer a limited selection of sounds that cover acoustic drum kits to electronic sounds and percussion.
Your e-kit module should also feature an auxiliary input for connecting a smartphone or music player, enabling you to jam with your favourite music – nothing feels better than locking in with the hits from your favourite artists. Your first e-kit won’t be premium, but if you’re looking to find your feet and practice without disturbing people at home, you’ll do no wrong here.
Headphones vs speakers
The debate over whether headphones are better than speakers for e-kit players is a difficult one. If you want convenience, then headphones win every time - but if you want a more ‘live’ experience, a speaker (also known as a monitor) is the way to go.
Ask yourself why you’ve got an e-kit. Is it for the convenience, or for the experience? Most of the time, electronic drum sets are purchased for quiet practice, so if that’s what you need, then headphones would be our recommendation. Grab a decent pair of studio headphones, and lose yourself in your drumming - without annoying the people you live with.
If you’re free to make some noise, then a speaker is a great choice - but nothing beats an acoustic kit. As long as you’ve got no volume limits, an acoustic drum set wins over a speaker for us, every time.
Rubber pads vs mesh pads
It’s widely considered that mesh heads are the way to go when it comes to electronic drums. Rubber pads have historically been used on cheaper e-kits as a way of increasing durability - which is great if you’re a hard hitter - but in doing so, playability, realism and comfort are sacrificed. That being said, if you’re not too fussed about playing an e-kit that feels like an acoustic one and your budget is tight, then rubber pads could be your new best friend.
Mesh heads are becoming much more readily available on budget e-kits though, including the Alesis Turbo Mesh which retails for around $299/£219 - proving that rubber pads aren’t that much cheaper anyway.
We’d stick with mesh, to be honest. They feel nicer to play than rubber, and they’re quieter too.
One other alternative is Yamaha’s TCS (Textured Cellular Silicone) heads. They combine the durability of rubber with the response of mesh. They’re not tensionable like mesh heads, but we’re big fans all the same.
What are the best electronic drum set brands?
What are the best electronic drum set brands?
The world of electronic drums has grown exceptionally over recent years, but a core group of three manufacturers has been consistently leading the charge for many years. We refer to them as ‘The Big Three’ - Roland, Yamaha and Alesis.
Roland is one of the biggest and best when it comes to electronic instruments. As far back as 1972, Roland has been thinking of us drummers. The first official Roland-branded products were rhythm machines (namely the popular TR-33, 55 and 77 drum machines) - and since then they’ve gone on to be one of the industry leaders in the e-kit game. Their first foray into electronic drums was in 1985, with the DDR-30 digital drums module, while their V-Drums range debuted in 1997 with the TD-10 - and they’ve been innovating since, their biggest move being the introduction of mesh drum heads.
Yamaha is another titan of the music instrument market. They make electric guitars, saxophones, guitar amplifiers, acoustic guitars as well as their brilliant Yamaha electronic drum sets. They introduced their first electronic drum set - the PMC-1 - back in 1986, and now the DTX name prefixes their huge and ever-changing range. Their line-up covers beginner to pro e-kits, with their main feature being the use of TCS (Textured Cellular Silicone) heads over more traditional rubber or mesh. Yamaha’s reputation is huge, and they are a well-trusted brand that makes great products at decent prices.
Last but not least, we’ve got Alesis. They started off as music tech giants, and after releasing the SR-16 drum machine in 1990 - the all-time best selling drum machine, by the way - they ventured into electronic drum sets. They may have less history in the e-kit world but there are some truly impressive Alesis electronic drum sets on the market. They use a similar mesh head to Roland, delivering highly playable e-kits for not a lot of money. If you’re not so fussed on brand names, then Alesis is absolutely worth a look.
As of late, more and more companies are joining the fray with electronic kits of their own. For ultimate sound customisation and powerful processing, ATV and 2Box are worth your attention. While ATV makes e-kits designed to look and feel like real drums, 2Box makes e-kits that, hypothetically, are ever-expandable. Great for those who love to push the boundaries with their tech.
Simmons is another company that has made a comeback in recent years. Dave Simmons started out in the early ‘70s building electronic drums and triggers for friends, and quickly became a household name. Their brand has seen a recent resurgence, embracing the world of mesh heads and dual-zone pads.
Acoustic drum giants Pearl and GEWA have also thrown their e-kit making hats into the ring, with Pearl pushing their e/Merge range of e-kits in collaboration with Korg. There are currently two configurations available - the e/Traditional and e/Hybrid, the latter having a full-size 18” bass drum shell as opposed to the PUREtouch Kick Pad of the former.
Can I record with an electronic drum set?
Yep - and it’s actually pretty easy.
There are a few ways you can go about it - but the easiest and most efficient way is a USB cable - which is often supplied with your kit - from your e-kit straight into your computer. One thing to note, however, is that you’ll need a DAW to record your e-kit this way.
Connect your kit to your computer, and fire up your DAW. It doesn’t matter if you’re using Garageband, Cubase, Logic Pro, Ableton, Pro Tools or any of the great free DAW options - they’re all capable of doing the same thing. As you play your kit, you’ll see MIDI information being transferred into your DAW. You can either use the in-built sounds from your electronic drum set module, or an external drum library such as GetGood Drums or Steven Slate Drums to get your drum tones - allowing you to tweak your recordings to your heart’s content.
We go into far more depth on this topic in our how to record electronic drums feature.
You will be recording a MIDI signal, as opposed to an audio signal, making editing much easier - and you can even tweak your timing if some of your hits land slightly off grid, too.
Some e-kits will allow you to record straight into the module, too. This is great for recording quick ideas, but we wouldn’t record drum takes for songs or band demos this way. The audio quality will be poor due to the files having to be so heavily compressed, and you won’t be able to mix any of the individual drums later on - leaving you stuck with exactly what you recorded, and nothing else.
A line-out from your audio interface would yield largely the same results as this. It would work, but it wouldn’t be the best option.
Can you play live gigs with an electronic drum set?
You sure can. It’s still not a massively common occurrence, but increasingly drummers are using full e-kit setups for their live shows. Drum sampling techniques have improved so much in recent years that the sounds coming out of high-end e-kits sound just like the real thing.
This, coupled with the increase in live drum triggering - when drum triggers are placed on acoustic drums and used to trigger pre-recorded drum sounds - means that actually, a lot of what you might hear at a gig is actually the same as you might hear from an e-kit.
Historically, electronic drum sets haven’t really looked the part for stage use. There’s something intimidating about turning up to a gig with a collection of plastic, rubber and mesh when everyone else is rocking acoustic gear. Things have changed, thankfully. Some modern electronic drum sets - for example the Roland VAD706 and the ATV aDrums Artist Standard - come complete with full wooden shells - meaning they look like acoustic kits but come packing electronic drum set smarts.
Some drummers opt for a hybrid setup - a combination of acoustic drums and electronic sample pads and triggers which enable you to layer sounds, enhance your acoustic drum sound and so much more. Roland leads the game when it comes to these more complimentary electronics, with the SPD-SX being a staple in the professional hybrid drummer’s arsenal. People may use them to trigger ‘one-shots’ - single sounds like hand-claps, synths or similar - and some people use them to trigger entire backing tracks. Using a hybrid setup can turn your basic acoustic kit into a powerful performance tool - and it’s so much fun.
When is the best time to buy an electronic drum set?
When is the best time to buy an electronic drum set?
We stand by every kit in this guide when it comes to value for money, features and build quality. If you're in the market right now, then you can do no wrong in picking one up. You may even find small discounts if you shop around (you can use our price widgets to find the best prices in your territory at our trusted retailers).
That said, in our experience there are optimal times of the year to buy. You can usually find small discounts throughout the year, and during key sales events like Labor Day, Memorial Day and President's Day, but between October and January is the recommended time to look. That's when retailers start gearing up to offer the very best prices coincide with the busy Black Friday/Cyber Monday and Christmas period. If you're able to wait until then, we would urge you to hold off until you can bag a hearty discount. The money you save could be spent on new sticks, an upgrade to your bass drum pedal or a quality pair of headphones.
Keep your eyes on MusicRadar for all the best Black Friday drum deals.
Where can I buy an electronic drum set?
You can buy an electronic drum set from any of the biggest specialist music stores, in-person or online. Places like Gear4Music, Thomann in the UK/Europe, and Guitar Center, Musician’s Friend, Sweetwater and Amazon in the US all have huge ranges of e-kits from the big-name brands, as well as smaller ones - so you should be able to find an e-kit to suit your needs and budget without any hassle.
There are pros and cons to buying an electronic drum set online, but on the whole it’s an easy, convenient way to grab a great deal. The abundance of expert buyer’s guides and informative video reviews that you have at your disposal means that you can find out all you need to know about your new purchase without needing to see it in the flesh. With online purchasing currently being so popular, many major retailers have updated or extended their returns policies, allowing you some extra time to decide whether your new e-kit really is the one you want once you have it home.
If you want to see, feel and play exactly what you’re going to buy, then the in-store experience can’t be beaten. Not only can you get hands-on with your new e-kit before you buy it, but you’ll be able to ask any questions you’ve got face-to-face, rather than over the phone or email. This - for us - is the biggest benefit of buying in-store. It's worth double checking that your local specialist music store carries the brand that you’re after and that they have sufficient stock before you visit though - or you may be leaving empty-handed.
Should I buy a used electronic drum set?
Buying a used electronic drum set brings with it its very own set of pros and cons. Obviously the main upside of buying used is that there are some big savings to be had. In our experience buying and selling our music gear, used prices tend to be roughly two thirds of the new price - which can usually free up some extra cash for the accessories you might need.
Electronic drum sets are designed to be hit, so often their build quality is strong, sturdy and durable. This also means, however, that the used e-kit you’re looking at could have been used and abused by a previous owner.
For this reason, it’s important that you’re aware that most manufacturer warranties won’t cover re-sold items - meaning that even if your used kit is within the manufacturer warranty period, you won’t be eligible to use the warranty.
Some big music retailers such as Guitar Center offer a wide range of used products, usually taken in part exchange on new gear. These items are then checked over before they go back on sale, to make sure everything is in good working order. You’ll likely pay a bit more than the going rate if you’re buying second hand from a big store, but in our opinion, the added peace of mind is worth paying a little more for. It’ll still be cheaper than the new item, too.
Online marketplaces like Reverb, eBay, Facebook Marketplace and Amazon can also provide you with some great second hand options with some major discounts. It’s definitely worth noting that although some of the savings can be huge, you’re reliant on the seller being completely truthful in their description of the product. If you do purchase something that isn’t as described, then Reverb, eBay and Amazon all have help centers that can assist you in sorting out the issue.
When buying a second hand e-kit we would always recommend checking out the gear in person before you part with your cash to ensure that all parts are in working order and that all connections between pads and the module are working. Sometimes images in an online ad don’t tell the full story.
How do we test electronic drum sets?
Our testing process for the best electronic drum sets comes from many years of experience. Collectively, we’ve bought and sold hundreds of electronic drum sets, and played them for thousands of hours - so we know what to keep an eye out for when looking for the very best.
When testing e-kits, we check everything from the ease of setup, the quality and durability of the components and how easy the hardware and module are to operate, all the way through to how the kit sounds through speakers and headphones, how it sounds when jamming with other people and how well the pads and other parts stand up to heavy use. We make sure that everything we recommend to you has been put through its paces - and then some - so you won’t be disappointed with your purchase.
Best electronic drum sets: new releases on our radar
The electronic drum set world moves fast. In just the last couple of years we've seen Yamaha announce a new kit series, the DTX6, while Roland announced three flagship kits, the VAD706, TD-50KV2 and TD-50K2, delivering advanced features including digital hi-hats, real drum shells available in multiple finishes, and a powerful new TD-50 module which boasts deeper editing and greater playing realism than ever before. New kits from both Roland and Yamaha feature in this guide.
Even more recently, Roland added new models to its beginner to intermediate-friendly TD-07 series while Yamaha has just retired a couple of old ranges, replacing them with the wood shell DTX8 and DTX10 series'.
We test everything we feature in this guide and we'll be getting hands-on with these new kits soon.
- Need more help? Read our complete A-Z of electronic drums